Interview: Soem [ALA, GN, TUB, BTF, DSA, PFP]

Not many artists have caught my eye with consistency than the handstyles of Boston’s Soem. I first saw some of his tags via pictures on Instagram and noticed his style, to me, was a influenced by the old-school New York style, but with his own originality added to the flow.
The quality of his tags were made more apparent when he and two others were hand-picked winners of 12ozProphet’s x MTNColor‘s handstyle competition recently (there were tons of quality entries, too).
I was lucky enough to have a chat with the man himself to answer some questions about his style, his influences, and his first interests in dropping dope tags.

“Handstyler” by Soem

What’s your artist name/word, and where are you based?

My name is Soem, and I am from Boston mass. I write with the following crews out here: ALA, GN, TUB, BTF, DSA, and last but not least the almighty PFP crew.

How long have you been involved in graffiti, and what sparked the interest?

I have been doing graffiti since ’99. I got into it while in middle school. There was a group of kids within my school that were known as “artistic, or could draw” and I was included – but there was one person I knew who was doing something I had never seen before which was graffiti.

It was so early-staged graffiti though that it was pretty much being called bubble letters (lol). But there was really something different about what homie was pulling off. First he was showings me styles and letter formations like “yeah this is a pump, and that’s a kick”. He was being taught by an older writer around that way that actually had skills, and he was kinda like second handing me what he was being taught. It was cool because I felt like no one else in that school at least was doing this, and was at least doing it well.

Soem’s winning entry in 12ozProphet’s handstyle competition 2014

When did you start focusing on lettering and handstyles?

When I got into high school, that was the moment I learned more about letters and hand styles, and decided to focus on it more seriously. I thought I was pretty good, but at this school there was a bunch of talented people with skills and really had a hand on graffiti. They were painting actual pieces on the street with spray paint and that to me at the time of 2001, I was like “Yo, there is more to this shit?!? I gotta learn”.

I came up with two friends in my class in high school they wrote Drupe, and Tense (DSA crew), and these guys were good – like really, really good – definitely ahead of their time with the pieces they were pulling off, as well as tags.

The good part about being around talented people at that time and age was that we were all hungry to be the best, and that made us really wanna be dope. With that said, we were freshman in 2001 and we had upper class men who were really good and skilled as well. They had more years on us painting-wise, as well as shit talking capabilities which also was good inspiration for me to get ill and get better.

 

“The good part about being around talented people at that time and age was that we were all hungry to be the best”

What have been your inspirations on your handstyle, both inside and outside of graffiti?

My inspirations on my hand style comes from one of my friends in high school who took me in and kind of showed me the ropes unlike anyone else at the time. He wrote Audio and is the first person to show me how to make a mop marker out of a empty glue roller, and chalk board eraser (lol). Him and his brother Hector are easily one of the inspirations for what I do.

They had crazy hands though as well. They knew hand styles all over the city too, and schooled me to style writing. They both showed me dope artist’s as well outside of our city like Twist, Chevy, Chips and Os Gemeos.

For inspirations outside of graffiti, it’s weird because it seems like more then ever now that graffiti is inspiring a lot of outsiders, and corporations. Especially advertisements (lol) but I definitely still find some inspiration in the weirdest places. As of lately it has been the simple things like looking at clouds every so often, and even seeing how little kids write their names – but over all, listening to music definitely makes things better. Listen to some “Madlib” beats and start working… shits crazy lol.

“…with the hand styles they seem to keep evolving, so I feel like I am actually getting better at something.”

Via your Instagram, I’ve seen the majority of your tags done with markers. Do you find yourself using spray paint for tags much?

As far as me doing the majority of tags with markers, it’s funny, because I was always learning with spray paint first. People were always telling me I had a good hand while out tagging up, and doing pieces with a signature at the end for fun.

In a weird way this is kinda like a newer fun thing for me. I always saw a lot of people with good hands in my city, but to be honest I was more concerned with doing top-notch pieces in the beginning. Sadly after doing them for so long its kinda nice to have this as something fun to do. I feel like in graffiti you first wanna destroy everything with throw-ups at first, then you wanna start knocking out some pieces, then pieces on freights, and maybe once you’ve been killing long enough, do some gallery shows.

For me personally, working on my script as something I can take as serious as I do with piecing is a really good outlet. Harsh truth for me is I do get bored easily sometimes, and I find myself doing something completely different, and with the hand styles they seem to keep evolving, so I feel like I am actually getting better at something.

“There is a lot of unsung heroes with style out here who would be considered pioneers as well.”

Are there any artists on the Handstyler website that have caught your eye?

Yes there are some artists on Handstyler that have definitely caught my eye, and are legends in the game that I look up to as well. Sure and Faust, of course. I first heard of them back in 2006. I had learned of them from my homie Audio out here in Boston.

Twist and Bates, I was lucky enough to see their work in person out here in Boston back in 2001. Bates had crushed this whole spot out here with Grey that could be seen on the orange line, and they had a lot of alleys on lock. At that same time frame I saw Twist and Totem2 had the whole Fenway area really hit up. Alleyways, and spots that could be seen either while in car, or walking in that area.

The handstyles that I saw were really special to me at that time. I was seeing a lot of great hands at that age. I was 15 seeing a lot of style back then.

If you could only do tags with one tool for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?

If I could only only do tags with one tool for the rest of my life though, it would have to probably be with spray can again, I believe. I know I have a decent hand with spray paint, but it could get better. Plus if I can learn to get nice with it in one area, there are countless other places it can go. Just gotta be motivated to try more new things and stay creative.

As far as brand of paint for spray paint awww man…. that is really tough. First I was really into Molotow (Belton) paint – it’s super long lasting, and the control factor on that was incredible. Yet for the past 4 years I’ve been buying Ironlak paint. It’s cheap and those pink caps are flawless. But!!! since I won that Montana contest on Instagram I can’t front, the paint they sent me has been really dope and new. They have a can called hardcore two and it has a new nozzle system that’s pretty smooth as fuck. The Montana 94 paint I just tried on a canvas as well, and it was really cool too. I guess that I am looking forward to more Montana products to try out.

“A lot of times I compare stickers so I know which ones to actually put out on the street.”

At a quick guess, how many stickers do you think you’ve done?

At quick guess, it would have to be at least 5,000 to maybe 9,000 completely. I found some old blue top label stickers in a old box while moving out the crib into my own place. I had done about 300 of those and that was back in 2006 when I got them.

It’s a little scary now that I think about it, because I hate a lot of the stickers I do. A lot of times I compare stickers so I know which ones to actually put out on the street. Shit I finally got rid of everything but there are still some at my old spot that didn’t make the cut that I don’t like that either are wack, and I messed up the sticker, or I just didn’t get around to re-sorting them out.

Within your city, are there any other writers to look out for that have quality handstyles?

Not to sound super cocky, but I really feel like Boston/Massachusetts has some of the best hand styles out. When I first started, I used to see a hand styles that were really fucking nasty.

Spek always had a good hand, Groe was real nice. My homie Phone is nasty with it. Elser was one of the first hands that was real clean and stylish. Aves of course. Kem5 and Ges. My homie Tense still nasty I’m telling you. As well as Audio, and Hector.

But I’ll really set it off right now and tell you who was kinging it through my eyes completely. Vault, Alert, Caper, ummmm who else who else Sp.One oh shit!!! Relm how could I forget… Alone, Owl fuck… Bare was killing too. Gyer, my main man Kesh ummmm… shit… here are some good ones. Kong, Mes, Ryze, and Monk.

The part that is even crazier is the fact that there are soooo many good ones that I’m not even thinking of, just because there are that many to see and remember. Back and Blastoe as well… and there are way more to name out here.

There is a lot of unsung heroes with style out here who would be considered pioneers as well. SrOne as well. One of my ultimate favorites was a hood classic – his name was Phelt. Click, and Soche – BOSTON LEGENDS.

Hello, my name is SOEM
Hello, my name is SOEM

Where can readers find more of your work online, and follow your progress?

I am working on getting more of my work out there as of now. For the moment, you can check me out on Instagram and Flickr, as well as artcrimes.com.

What’s one song you’d recommend everyone to listen to whilst checking out the rest of your stuff?

It’s gonna have to be Jaylib – The Official – anything Jay Dilla to be honest. Truly was a legend in the game.

Jaylib – The Official

Any shout outs?

Shout out to my brothers in this graff shit out here Problak, Astro and Nekro (aka Perish). Shout to my niggas Take, Odesy, Aware, and Times. Peace to the GN crew. My homie Pats. Shout out to my brothers Audio and Hector – much luv y’all. My older bros that keep me trying harder every piece, Kem, Ges and Rath. Shouts to Preys, Niser, and Nel5. Shouts to my crews that stay killing ALA, PFP, BTF, TUB, and SF crew. Much love y’all.


Be sure to follow Soem on Instagram, and also check out his Flickr account

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